Friends of Chamber Music

Beaux Art Trio: The Farewell Concert

Date and Venue Tuesday, 15 April 2008 @ 8 pm | The Vancouver Playhouse

Schubert Trio in B flat, D898, Op. 99 György Kurtág Work for Piano Trio Schubert Trio in E flat, D929, Op. 100

Piano Menachem Pressler Violin Daniel Hope Cello Antonio Meneses

Reviewer J H Stape

This concert had "occasion" written all over it even before it began: the hall was full to overflowing, with seats on the stage itself; the programme featured a colour picture of the Trio and an announcement that the concert was sponsored by the FCM's Board of Directors "in grateful appreciation of a half century of glorious music making"; and a genial farewell from the Chairman of the Board began the evening's proceedings.

The concert fully itself justified this outpouring, the beloved Beaux Arts playing magisterially, and generously taking their very final farewell with not one but two encores.

Longevity is never guaranteed, and both the Beaux Arts Trio and the Friends of Chamber Music must record with at least some surprise that the Trio has been performing at FCM concerts for forty-seven years. The like will not be seen again, and this milestone will long -- or even always -- stand in the annals of concerts of chamber music in Vancouver. The group leaves a hole that won't be soon filled.

Schubert's Trio in B flat, D898, Op. 99 opens with a bold, inventive Allegro movement that received a bravura reading, the playing warm and expressive, delicate and subtle. The dream-like Andante, by contrast introspective and plangent, was all gossamer, and proved to be sublime music sublimely articulated.

The sprightly third movement scherzowith its strong and exuberant line is uncommonly playful even for a scherzo and underlined the festive note announced in the first movement, while the sumptuously conceived closing rondo, with its ironic flashes and virtuousic elements, was mischievous and seductive and self-consciously charming, and its brio character, relentlessly beguiling, was given full value.

Introduced by Menachem Pressler as the work of a friend, Kurtág's "Work for Piano Trio," a five-minute long "transcendental meditation" was to my ear derivative and unoriginal, the minimalist soundscape that of Ligeti or Schoenberg and a mere run over very familiar territory.

The Beaux Arts treated the piece lovingly, and even with reverence, but its brevity proved its strongest point. We long ago knew that this group with the Midas touch could turn into gold almost anything, but in this case, one remained unconvinced the miracle had come off.

It did so in spades, however, in the Schubert Trio in E flat, D929, Op. 100 (1828), one of the masterpieces of the trio repertoire, with assured playing bringing to radiant life this much loved and highly subtle work. The first movement Allegro slowly develops into a grand statement, its architectonics bold and subtle at once.

The haunting melancholy that descends in the Andante con moto never wholly leaves off, the remainder of the Trio gesturing towards it retrospectively. Dramatically intense, this passionate and gentle movement replays itself in the memory long after the final bars are played, even besetting the contrastive and appealing scherzo movement.

The powerful finale, rich in drama, was elegantly brought off, the blaze of sound becoming a blaze of glory, and what a fine way to end a long career, though there were two winks good-bye: a jaunty movement from a Haydn trio and a spellbindingly played movement from the Dumky Trio by Dvoržak.

The concert brought to a very grand close the Friends of Chamber Music's Sixtieth Season. Its Sixty-First begins in October, with -- surprise! -- that octogenarian magician Menachem Pressler at the keyboard and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, to be followed throughout the year by the Tokyo String Quartet, the Pražák, the Takács, Borodin, and Emerson. If you don't have a subscription, make sure to get one for what is always the best line-up in classical music in town.

© 2008 J H Stape